Day 85 & 86. Sun 28th, Mon 29th May. Golspie to Helmsdale.
I woke up just after 6am, on a Sunday morning !!! to the sound of a frenzy of activity around the carting track. It was race day so the teams were busy preparing the carts, the drivers, ranging from 7-8 year kids to blokes older than me were doing their final checks before racing was due to start at 9am. I had to get up and shift my tent as I was pitched in the way of another race team that had just driven up from Glasgow for the days racing. I stripped out and headed into Mo's Kitchen where I was greeted with a full breakfast and a pot of coffee, it's a shame I had to take the tent down as I'm sure the guys in Mo's would have brought me breakfast in bed, what a great bunch they are. 🥰
I loitered about for a bit to watch some of the racing, it was great to see how skilled some of these young drivers were and reaching some impressive speed. I was about to leave when the WM of the Lodge in Golspie showed up so we had another brew. We had a fascinating conversation about how his son had been very involved in carting which really helped him through his school years, having struggled to engage with his education. The main issue of course in any sport like this is the cost, I was gobsmacked while he was listing out the costs incurred in a years racing programme !!! A very expensive hobby indeed.
I got moving just before lunchtime and it wasn't long before I got a fly past by my mate Dickie !!! Out for a play in his plane so he thought he'd do a fly past and give me a wave...
A little further around the coast I passed Dunrobin Castle, an amazing looking building that wouldn't look out of place on the Romantish Strasse in Southern
Germany, it was mobbed with tourist so I never stopped in.
In Brora I was sitting in the sun having a little light, cold refreshment when Chaz happened to walk past. I'd met chaz the day before when he had stopped on the side of the road to say hello, he'd then later collected me from the carting track and taken me for a look round the Lodge in Golspie before dropping me back at the track. Like my dad, Chaz had left the REME after a full career as an ASM but unlike my dad, he had adjusted to civilian life really well. I had no plans at that point for where I was to sleep that night so Chaz kindly offered me a bed back at his house.
We went back and he cooked a lovely meal for us and his youngest daughter and after we settled down with a beer to take part in a very enjoyable Masonic Zoom meeting. There were Masons from all over, one from Northern Island, one from Cornwall and the rest from all over England & Scotland. It was a lovely night, thanks Chaz for your hospitality.
Bank holiday in England but not in Scotland so an early start so Chaz could get to work. He kindly droppped me off in town, I'd very much enjoyed spending time in his company, I know he had been a spanner monkey in the REME but he had also been a 'Tiffi', an Artificer which would probably explain why he reached the esteemed rank of ASM and clearly made him very interesting and articulate, not something normally associated with REME folk !!! 😬The 'Tiffi' course is said to be one of the toughest courses in the British army and I remember many stories my dad told about how long and gruelling it was. My old man often used to blather on about his army days and I listened, often knowing I'd already heard that story or with a roll of the eyes thinking, 'here we go', drag up a sandbag while he swings the lantern for a bit. But you know, that was his identity, the purpose he was searching for in his life as a young man back in the late 60's in Liverpool. Listening to the stories, the police were often on his heels for one thing or another so he had to step up and do something. He chose the army, they accepted him and he flourished and I've never really thought about it until now but I'm immensely proud of what he achieved, for himself and for what that then did for our family. What more can a man wish to achieve in his life ? He died in 2019 aged 70, the same week as I had to put my Westie Ralph to sleep, all at the same time as we were closing the deal selling our business. He had, for many years become a pain in my arse, he was bitter and angry, he became very selfish and self centred and was very difficult to be around. He never got on with Michelle which always made it difficult for me and naturally, I'd always side with my wife because the issues were always created by him. Of course, I went to his funeral, I think there were about 9 of us, possibly 8, there wasn't much of a celebration of his life, we had a few beers, walked away and that was that. 70 years, a life of achievement, a bloke trying to do his best in everything he did but because he lost his purpose, his identify, when he left the army, he extracted himself from life and in what should have been a wonderful 25 years, a second career and then retirement, ended up being something quite misserable actually.
In 50 years I can never recal him telling me he loved me but in the last few weeks while the cancer was finishing him off, possibly one of the last times he could talk coherently, he held my arm, he couldn't grip as he had no strength left and he told me, he said he was very proud of me and that he loved me.
Anyway, spending time with Chaz, chatting about stuff I knew he had done in the exact same places my dad would have done them, made me feel very proud and almost reconnected to my dad. Thank you Chaz, you're a top man, as was he, for REME VM's anyway. 😜I always felt deep down that my old fella wished he followed his dad and joined the Royal Engineers... 😝
A lovely day of walking followed, mostly on the beach and for the first time, I walked in bare feet on the sand for a couple of hours, bliss... 😎
I reached Helmsdale in the late afternoon. It had dawned on me a few days ago that I had got the dates wrong for the Isle of Man TT races and as I wanted to accept my invite to walk the island during race week, I'd had to do some planning to work out how I could get from the North East coast of Scotland down to Liverpool to catch the ferry. Quite by chance, Helmsdale was the perfect place to start that journey as the last place on that coast with a train station so I found a cheap B'n'B, my clothes were desperate for a wash and I needed to stay close to the train station for an early train the next day. I was off on me holidays to watch some bike racing. 😉😎